Although I mostly played arcade games back in the ‘80s and ’90s, I enjoyed pinball as well, although I was a late bloomer in that respect. My favorite game of all time is Star Wars, a game that I eventually pretty much mastered at Hawthorne’s in Greenbelt. Years later I came upon another machine in Gameworks in Seattle and spent over an hour obsessing all over again.
So you can imagine my surprise when I read an article in Wired magazine about an emulation project for pinball. I had of course already discovered and revelled in the fact that the MAME project allowed me to play thousandss (yes, thousands!) of arcade games from my childhood. But it turns out that there is another active community dedicated to the preservation and creation of pinball games. I immediately embarked on figuring out how to install all of the software, and this past weekend, when I finally got Star Wars to work here at home, I must say that a tear came to my eye as I won my first Death Star Jackpot in almost 10 years. It still can’t reproduce playing a real pinball machine, but I must say that I was surprised at how good a job it did attempting to reproduce the overall experience.
So here’s the scoop: go to VPForums and read their FAQ on how to install VPinMAME and Visual Pinball, the two applications you need to emulate pinball games on your PC. That particular FAQ is very informative, as it takes you through the somewhat convoluted process step by step. If only I had read that first… :-p Although the FAQ includes links for downloads, here are some links to download Visual Pinball, VPinMAME, front ends (I like VPLauncher), and most importantly, the actual Visual Pinball table and ROM files. If you’re not a supporting member of the forums, you’re limited to the amount you can download at once, so I immediately donated and became a member. All of the hard work of these folks put into the project was definitely worth a couple of bucks, especially if it let me download Cyclone, Jurassic Park and dozens more games quicker ;-).
Let me know if you have any favorites that I should try out, as it’s pretty tough to learn these games on the PC without having played them for real first, although you can even download “rules” files that help you figure them out. If you have any trouble getting things to work, let me know, as it took me a bit to get it right. It was so worth it, though… 🙂